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Phiya’s (future) School of Macrobiotic Dialectics

May 19, 2010

I don’t have a school yet but I am playing with idea of creating one.

When the Kushi Institute first opened in 1978 I remember a test of some 20 questions that was handed out to the students on their very first day by my father, Michio Kushi, the founder.  Included on the test were questions that I had not seen on any test in all my years of schooling from elementary school to college.  Some of these questions were, for example:

  1. Why are there no greens flowers?
  2. Why is a honeycomb six-sided?
  3. Why do we have two eyes, two ears, two nostrils but only one mouth?

and many more…

These questions were the entry level test that was given to new students at the Kushi Institute.  With questions like these, it was THE exciting place to be and study at – I and many others thought. But overtime things changed over the years and the originality that the Kushi Institute was when it first started has, I am sorry to say, long since gone.  Today, macrobiotic schools have gone the way of all schools – designed to create professionals in pursuit of establishing careers and experts in the field of – well – macrobiotics.

Long ago, as a little kid sitting in the back of my father’s free community lectures in our home or at churches or at that small space that was once called the “Noh Center” I distinctly remember him criticizing modern education and the idea and reality of professionals and experts.  Such things were counter intuitive to macrobiotics and the philosophy of the Far East.  But flash forward forty years later and the Kushi Institute has now become the very thing that my father used to criticize.

How did it come to this? How could things turn into their opposite so easily? I must admit that, as a former director of the Kushi Institute, I myself, in spite of all good intentions, partially helped to create it that way. Why it happened is a story in itself and, in the end, we may never know exactly why, but the fact remains, that macrobiotic schools have come to be now known as places where one becomes a macrobiotic professional; a macrobiotic counselor or teacher. They have become places where the original notions of intuition and curiosity have been replaced by analytical (gasp!) nutritional science and technical knowledge and information.  They have become bastions of expertise and have lost all the original intention and spirit that once was guided by the macrobiotic dialectical ideas of Ohsawa and a much younger Michio.  In a larger and more general sense and like all schools, they now promote competition, hoarding, secrecy and a general degradation of a humanity that values monetary gain above curiosity.

These days I find myself longing for the dialectical wisdom that was once at the core of the macrobiotic movement.  I find myself thinking about creating a new school in the spirit of dialectics – one that would be the opposite of all schools today including the macrobiotic ones.  One that was originally envisioned by Ohsawa.  George Ohsawa used to call his teaching centers “Centre Ignoramus” – places to be ignorant – where unlearning took place.  This is the kind of school that I wish to create and be involved in the future.  To help further illustrate what it might look like below are some ideas on how such a school might work:

1.  The goal is to not create expert professionals skilled in one specific area but instead create ordinary human beings who know how to live.

Unlike schools today where you go to become a professional and an expert in a particular field in order to get a job and a career, the School of Macrobiotic Dialectics would be a place where you become “unprofessional” where the end goal is to become just like everyone else.

2.  The Graduation Ceremony is at the beginning.

The school would begin with a graduation ceremony and celebration, where you are given a diploma of, well, stupidity – a declaration and admission of your ignorance.  You would ceremoniously declare your ignorance with all the fanfare and hoopla that it deserves and from that moment on your studies can begin.  The ceremonial dress would be pointed “dunce” caps and gowns.

3.  The Beginning Exams

Following the graduation ceremony you will have to take your “Beginnings” (not your “Finals”).  These are rigorous tests that you must take to determine your level of ignorance and will help determine how much unlearning you must do.  The tests challenge you not to come up with answers but instead, to come up with questions on all subject matters.  You will be graded on the simplicity and originality of the questions you pose and not on answers that you may have or give.

4.  Areas of Study

No restrictions will be placed on any area of study you might be interested in.  In fact, the more subjects and more diverse your interests are the better. Selecting an area of study begins simply by your own curiosity and inquiring about it; by posing a question for which you seek to find the answer to.  Your task will then be to find the answer to the question you pose.  However once you find an answer then your task will be to come up with more questions based on that answer.  The goal then is not to find answers but to find more questions.  By the end of your studies you should have more questions than when you began.  It is the school of infinite questions; a school where a child-like curiosity is valued above all.

5. Macrobiotics

In the field of macrobiotics, the emphasis will not necessarily be on foods and satisfying our needs but instead on increasing and maintaining our hunger and a healthy appetite. It will be on learning to get by with less and maximizing your time and energy to develop a larger appetite for life and your curiosity for learning.

6. The Study of the Mundane

Towards the end of your study, the school will emphasize the study of the mundane; of living simply and of doing simple chores and tasks and all that is required for daily living including cleaning toilets, washing laundry, cooking food to learning how to have happy relationships, have healthy children, be good parents, to build homes, make clothes, grow food, and create healthy communities and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as singing songs and playing games.  The goal will be such that by the time you’re ready to leave the school, you will be an ordinary human being who knows how to live simply alone and with others; a human being who has basic survival skills and can take care of all of his or her basic needs even if left out in the wilderness.

Once you complete basic Mundane Studies you can then move on to Advanced Mundane Studies.  These include: how to talk, how to walk, how to listen, how to observe, and many simple tasks like how to tie your shoe laces.  When you’ve completed these you’re ready to teach others.  Young children could even become teachers of Advanced Mundane Studies.

Once you become a teacher, you start your teaching career by teaching the students of Advanced Mundane studies then you move on to the basic Mundane studies and then on to evaluating the questions of students in the different areas of study and finally ending with judging and reviewing the Beginnings Exams.

7.  Completion

The school does not end but is only the beginning of a life-long journey of the exploration of everything.  Conferences and award ceremonies will be held to explore and recognize the explorations of the most profound questions that students come up with.  It is the school of unlearning and of being ordinary where a simple life and a child-like curiosity are valued above all.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynn clare permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:52 pm

    See takeshi school. Tao in japan for a simple base
    also look At Francis and Clare and rule of life
    blessings this is good to see this at this mo
    ent as I cram through academic world of test

  2. May 20, 2010 12:59 pm

    Phiya, I loved this post. I remember your father first from the late 70s, and he was still totally far out (or rather, far IN) with what he was saying at that point. Some of the stuff he came up with in totally straight public lectures in London, Amsterdam and Antwerp: I just wanted to stand up and CHEER….When we create this wonderful school, I will come and teach Ignoramus Shiatsu: (I don’t know nuthin: da thumbs and da hara do da talkin..) big love and hugs , John

  3. Peter Doggen permalink
    May 20, 2010 3:43 pm

    This is Erehwon

  4. May 20, 2010 6:39 pm

    Nice vision, nice plan, great ideas…

  5. claire fitzgerald pound daring permalink
    May 20, 2010 6:47 pm

    Dear Phyia, I remember working in the kitchen at the Yoga centre just outside New York in the mountains. People would ask me what I was doing, have always loved to experiment and as we cooked the big pots of food for everyone, I would add a pinch of an ingredient that would not make any difference to the taste, but it felt like, homeopathic subtilties, and as I tried to explain the energies, not very well, I would see their faces blank, and I wondered how your father found someone to talk to on his level of understanding, not that I was or am anywhere near your father but we all have a little touch of uniquness, and to be able to bring that to the surface for those searching will be, one peaceful world.

  6. May 23, 2010 11:15 pm

    My answer to the questions you seem to be asking is how can you have a beginning without having an end. So again I ask you, and everyone who reads this is, why was Zen taken out of “Zen Macrobiotics”? Because of it’s removal I have seen this wonderful practice become cold and professional. Where is the Laughing Buddha now? Did the Hoti give more than he took? The worried look shows a lack of true faith, does it not? Is macrobiotics only for the rich who can travel to the northeast? Bah Humbug!

    • patti permalink
      June 6, 2010 6:54 pm

      how true at onset of my macrobiotic experience I had funds to support cooking classes_ take out meals and special lectures. Not to mention affrd the organic food and various products necessary to create a nourishing and enjoyable meal. Now many yrs later I find myself falling off due to monrtary and physical constraints… And feeling more fatigued and in pain. How does one with no income holding ones own hoping and making every attempt to feel and be well again seek guidance and nourishment without monies to pay for high priced consultations… And such… I do appreciate phiya free con calls immensely.

  7. Riki Luri permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:47 pm

    I was thinking about the bee hive recently, the only “straight” lines in nature, six of them. I thought only humans constructed in straight lines? why do bees do this? I know nothing. I would like to teach at your school!

  8. Lisa S. permalink
    August 25, 2012 10:55 pm

    Absolutely brilliant, this proposed philosophy of learning would create human beings of grand porportion. Phiyas insight is a great explanation of how the academic world is turning students into robots and not being able to think for themselves. We need students of life and I would be the first one to sign up Phiya, thank you, there is hope for the academically challenged as I am an older student plugging away and in the middle of studying for my Macrbiotic placement test with Macrobiotics of America. I would learn so much more if you had your school up and operating, something to look forward to. Thank you from Canada

  9. August 27, 2012 5:52 am

    Hope you get it going… There is great potential. I would support where possible.

  10. Jenn permalink
    August 27, 2012 6:27 am

    What do you need to start this? Can we make this a reality sooner than later? It can/will be be wonderful. The volunteer program Sharon helped start at the KI does have some aspects of this. I remember working in the kitchen and having to get on my hands and knees to deep clean and I loved it.

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